Unbelievably, it is nearly 35 years since the film version of Grease first appeared in cinemas. Many people will still remember standing in the enormous queue at the local “flea pit” hoping to get in to see the movie that had everyone talking. It was fresh, new, vibrant and fun. Now, all these years later, we have the stage version which, as well as all of those qualities, is also fast, energetic, exciting and a really great night out.
As the spotlight hits the musical director Barney Ashworth, he starts enticing the audience to wave their arms, cheer, and clap along to the tunes which, whether you’re nine or 90, are so very familiar. He does his job so well that, by the time the cast appear to deliver “Grease is the word”, the packed house is only too happy to be singing and clapping along.
All the well known supporting characters, like Pink-haired Frenchy Lauren Stroud and geeky Eugene Darren John, are there and are instantly recognisable from their screen versions but it is Danny, television’s Grease is the Word winner Danny Bayne, and Sandy (Carina Gillespie) who take centre stage to recall their, very differing, versions of what happened on those “Summer nights”. Both display great vocal ability, act well and are much more convincing teenagers than their celluloid counterparts.
Some parts of the storyline have disappeared in the stage version, like the gang warfare and car racing, and the order of some of the other scenes has been switched around somewhat, but that creates a piece that is tight and clear, with time for additional character development to take place.
The set, for a touring production, is amazing. Whether it is the car (which transforms magically from a wreck to a silver sparkly dream machine in the blink of an eye), the High School gym (venue for the iconic dance-off competition) or the bedroom scene (where the girls have their slumber party), the attention to detail is brilliant and the transformations are slick.
Robin Cousins makes a second act appearance as Teen Angel and shows that, as well as being a superb ice skater, he is a very accomplished singer. With both power and range he delivers a flawless version of “Beauty school dropout”. However, the show-stopping vocal moment has to be Rizzo Kate Somerset How belting out “There are worse things I could do”. The audience reaction was suitably enthusiastic for a performance that was both commanding and poignant.
The dance-off gives Sophie Zucchini as Cha Cha DiGregorio, together with Bayne, the opportunity to show that the dancing in the show is equally as superb as the singing. With ticket prices that represent fantastic value for money, Grease is a wonderful show that has everything the audience wants to see – even Sandy’s amazingly tight trousers.